Staff Directory 6370584

Mark Craig

Reporter/Columnist | Vikings/NFL
Phone: 612-673-7011

Mark Craig has covered college or pro football for 27 of his 31 years as a sports writer at the Canton (Ohio) Repository (1987-99) and Star Tribune. He is in his 24th season of covering the NFL. He is one of the 48 selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.   

A native of Northeast Ohio, Craig covered the Cleveland Browns from 1991 until they left for Baltimore in 1995. When they returned as an expansion team in 1999, Craig left to cover Gophers football for the Star Tribune. He co-authored two books on the Browns and is the author of the Vikings book "100 Things Vikings Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die."
Recent content from Mark Craig
Alexander Mattison and the Vikings need to hang onto their leads (and the football) Sunday against Detroit.

NFL Week 13: Patriots on top, Tua's up, Cam's down, Vikings keep blowing leads

Mark Craig has the Vikings sitting in the middle of the league rankings, mostly because the team keeps squandering their leads.
Mike Zimmer watches during the second half of his team’s game against the 49ers.

Zimmer goes after 49ers: 'These guys hold all the time'

NFL Insider: The 49ers have an affection for holding, Mike Zimmer said after Sunday's loss during a critique of the officials that could get him fined by the league.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins credits prayer, good blocking and smart protection schemes by his coaches for his durability.

Five extra points: Cousins angry (and prayerful), Thielen disappears

Kirk Cousins talks about the reasons for his durability and faced postgame questions about why he was angry at the end of the first half in Sunday's loss.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Mounting pressure to win is shaping bond between Cousins and Zimmer

The odd-couple quarterback and coach have learned how to agree to disagree — even on Kirk Cousins' recent more aggressive play — during a make-or-break season.
The last time the Vikings and 49ers played, San Francisco overpowered Minnesota’s offensive line and stopped Dalvin Cook.

Vikings' O-line stepping up is best way to help defensive line

Quarterback Kirk Cousins has been sacked only 14 times, a career low through 10 games as a starter.
Behind running back Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis is sneaky good. Or sledgehammer good, if you ask the Bills.

Mark Craig's NFL Week 12 Sunday picks against the spread

Another unpredictable week upended expectations for the Titans and Packers. Week 12 offers a number of good matchups between teams with winning records.
Mark Craig's Thanksgiving Day NFL picks

Mark Craig's Thanksgiving Day NFL picks

There are three NFL games on Thanksgiving, including the traditional games in Detroit and Dallas.
Jared Allen of the Vikings sacked Eagles quarterback Nick Foles during a 2013 game at the Metrodome.

Allen is Hall of Fame semifinalist for second consecutive year

Former Vikings Pro Bowler Jared Allen is 12th on the NFL's career sacks list.
Kirk Cousins and Aaron Rodgers.

Cousins keeps trending up, taking his place among some of the best ever

Kirk Cousins moved ahead of Aaron Rodgers in one career stat on Sunday and is closing in on Hall of Famer Dan Marino. Also, Jonathan Taylor is running wild and is there really a 'best' team in the NFL?
49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel ran for a touchdown past Jaguars safety Rayshawn Jenkins on Sunday.

Vikings challenge: 13-minute drive shows 49ers as ball-hogging bullies

On the NFL: With an interesting mixture of runners, Kyle Shanahan's physical, ball-control attack has helped the 49ers win three of their last four going into Sunday's game against the Vikings.
After what appeared to be a second-quarter interception by Packers safety Darnell Savage (26), Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) got a reprieve whe

Five extra points: Officiating jinx is broken as flags rain on Packers

Home teams had gone 1-8 with an eight-game losing streak in games officiated by referee Shawn Hochuli and his crew before the Vikings held off the Packers on Sunday.
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) ran into the end zone to score a touchdown in the first quarter of an NFL game between the Minnesota V

Packers' inept red-zone defense again no match for crafty Vikings

On the NFL: Green Bay's porous red-zone defense reared its ugly head once again and negated everything that Aaron Rodgers accomplished on Sunday.
Aaron Rodgers’ final snap against the Vikings last year resulted in a fumble, as then-rookie defensive end D.J. Wonnum reached from behind to swat t

Vikings have solved Matt LaFleur's Packers once. Can they do it again?

LaFleur would be 14-0 in the NFC North if not for the unlikely upset Mike Zimmer pieced together last year at Lambeau Field.
Mike Zimmer, Justin Jefferson, Everson Griffen and Greg Joseph will all play a role in determining the success of the Vikings during the second half o

Midseason report: Vikings still searching for identity, stability, consistency

The Vikings are 4-5, but they are also only a half-game out of a playoff position in the NFC. What are their big questions headed into the last eight games of the season?
Referee Shawn Hochuli

One more worry for Vikings fans: Sunday's officiating crew

On the NFL: As if the Vikings don't have enough to worry about playing the Packers, home teams with the officiating crew headed by referee Shawn Hochuli are on an eight-game losing streak.
Cornerback Rasul Douglas and the Packers defense has limited opponents to 15 points a game since their season-opening 38-3 loss to the Saints.

Mark Craig's Week 11 NFL picks against the spread

After a Week 10 filled with blowouts, our NFL insider is playing it safe with his upset calls.
From Gophers to Green Bay, linebacker Campbell joined Packers to win

From Gophers to Green Bay, linebacker Campbell joined Packers to win

On The NFL: Boo him if you must, Vikings fans, but the really good linebacker who'll be wearing the green-and-gold No. 59 jersey at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday is, actually, one of you.
Titans wide receiver Dez Fitzpatrick left the field after Sunday’s victory over the Saints in Nashville.

Best team in the NFL? Here's why it's the Tennessee Titans

In addition to an 8-2 record, Tennessee also has a relatively easy remaining schedule after rolling through a series of 2020 playoff teams.
Justin Jefferson danced off the field after the Vikings defeated the Chargers on Sunday.

After expressing frustration, Jefferson has break-out game

Coach Mike Zimmer said he made a promise to target the second-year wide receiver after Justin Jefferson had just five receptions in his last two games.
Vikings safety Cam Bynum’s third-down sack forced a punt in the third quarter.

Five extra points: Blitzes contain Chargers, new player yanked quickly

Mike Zimmer's blitz calls and Alexander Mattison's first-down reception provided key moments while a new member of the team didn't last long on the field.
The Chargers share SoFi Stadium with the Rams.

Vikings will get first look at a $5 billion home-away-from-home stadium in L.A.

Opposing teams' fans have invaded the Chargers' new stadium this season. The pricey SoFi Stadium will host the Super Bowl in February.
Mark Craig’s earliest days reporting on the NFL were with the Browns in Cleveland Stadium, as shown in 1994. NFL arenas have come a long way since t

57 NFL stadiums ... and counting

The Vikings will see what you can get for $5 billion.
Los Angeles Chargers coach Brandon Staley

Unlikely interview set Staley on journey from St. Thomas to head coach of the Chargers

Glenn Caruso took a chance on Brandon Staley, giving a former quarterback a job as a defensive assistant. Staley credits St. Thomas for the foundation that led him to the NFL.
Josh Allen and the Bills won’t lose as double-digit favorites again, will they?

Mark Craig's Week 10 NFL picks against the spread

After an upset-filled Week 9, what's in store in Week 10, when teams are favored by more than a touchdown?
Tom Brady led the Bucs to the Super Bowl title last season.

And the winners are . . . Here are the NFL's midseason awards

On The NFL: They are with different teams, but Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are still GOATs on Mark Craig's list. There are a lot of quarterbacks among the midseason elite.
Cardinals backup quarterback Colt McCoy felt pressure from San Francisco’s Arik Armstead on Sunday, but nevertheless led Arizona to the road win.

NFL midseason power ratings: A surprise at the top?

There's only one one-loss team in the league at the midpoint, and key injuries don't seem to faze it.
Wide receiver Justin Jefferson caught a 50-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins on the Vikings’ first drive against the Ravens on Sunda

Five extra points: Get Jefferson the ball, Kirk . . . and penalty on an intern

The Ravens kept Justin Jefferson in check after a 50-yard TD catch on the Vikings' first drive. But quarterback Kirk Cousins rarely targeted him after the score. Plus, a penalty we've never seen.
Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr (55) tipped a pass to himself for a acrobatic interception in overtime against the Ravens, but the Vikings gained only

Vikings can't capitalize on two turnovers and put the Ravens away

The Vikings' drives after interceptions by Camryn Bynum and Anthony Barr were uh-oh, here-we-go-again events.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins has thrown only two interceptions this season, but that might indicate the Vikings aren’t taking enough chances downfield.

Zimmer needs Cousins and that $150 million arm to save Vikings' season

On the NFL: The future of coach Mike Zimmer and his staff are also in question if the Vikings continue a losing season.
Vikings center Garrett Bradbury during training camp.

Vikings center Bradbury out vs. Ravens after landing on COVID list

Garrett Bradbury, who is vaccinated against COVID-19, needs to have two negative tests 24 hours apart to return. But the Vikings say he can't return in time to play in Baltimore on Sunday.
Will Trevor Siemian beat Tom Brady and the Super Bowl champs one week, and lose to the Falcons the next?

Mark Craig's Week 9 NFL picks against the spread

Things went south in a hurry last week for our NFL Insider's predictions. So this week playing it conservative might work.
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, left, and former standout Adrian Peterson spoke at the end of a game in 2020.

Adrian Peterson finds the perfect throwback fit in Tennessee

On the NFL: The former Vikings running back signed on with the Titans, the sixth team of his NFL career, after Derrick Henry suffered a broken foot.
Aaron Rogers led the Packers to a win over the Cardinals last week.

NFL Week 9: Packers move to the top; Lions' nightmares continue

Mark Craig's On The NFL chart gives kudos to the Packers, Cardinals and Patriots, but Kansas City continues to disappoint and Detroit can't get much more disappointing.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Cooper Rush (10) in the fourth quarter, when his team rallied to beat the Vikings 20-16.

Five extra points: Vikings couldn't rattle reserve QB Rush on first down

Cooper Rush stepped in for the injured Dak Prescott and combined with wide receiver Cedrick Wilson to gain chunks of yardage when it mattered.
Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs (7) has seven interceptions in six games.

Cowboys' Diggs may have 'that sixth sense you need' to break NFL interception mark

On the NFL: With seven picks in six games, Diggs is halfway to a mark that has stood since 1952.
Los Angeles Rams’ Dick “Night Train” Lane, right, in 1952, when he set the NFL record for interceptions in a season with 14. His record still st

'Night Train' Lane's NFL interception record has stood the test of time

A look at the record holders for interceptions through the years, from Pro Football Reference.
Will Lions coach Dan Campbell gets his first win this week against the Eagles?

Mark Craig's Week 8 NFL picks against the spread

Our NFL guesstimator predicts a big week for NFC North teams. Yes, that includes the Vikings beating the Cowboys and the Lions winning, too.
The former Vikings left guard Steve Hutchinson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.

Hutchinson will receive Hall of Fame ring during Sunday's Vikings game

The former Vikings left guard has dropped at least 75 pounds from his playing days. "It makes it a lot easier to find clothes," he said.
Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson is attracting tighter coverages after his sensational rookie season, but he’s still in the NFL’s top 10 in targe

'Humble over hype.' Jefferson learns reality of a second-year standout

Justin Jefferson is still one of the league's most prolific pass catchers, but he's all about the team's success and trying to improve in areas such as ball security.
Vikings rookie running back Kene Nwangwu (26, shown in training camp) will returns kicks against the Cowboys on Sunday night. He had been sidelined be

Vikings turn to rookie for kickoff returns after Abdullah's release

Kene Nwangwu was having a strong training camp when he suffered a knee injury on the preseason's opening kickoff.
Kyler Murray (right) of the Cardinals and Aaron Rodgers (left) of the Packers lead the top two teams in Mark Craig’s power rankings.

Who's up and who's down after Week 7 in the NFL

Joe Burrow, Ja'Marr Chase and the Bengals are trending up as the league's two best teams — the Packers and Cardinals — prepare to play each other.
Joe Burrow and the Bengals have the best record in the AFC after seven weeks.

Bengals, Cardinals rise above early-season expectations

NFL Insider: Forty-five days ago, we thought Kansas City was still great, Seattle was good and San Francisco would be great again. Today, they're all just bad. As Bengals QB Joe Burrow said, "Let's relax."
Some of the 2021 draft class beginning to make an impact in the NFC North (clockwise from top): Vikings tackle Christian Darrisaw, Bears quarterback J

Why is Vikings' rookie draft class so far behind NFC North rivals?

On the NFL: General Manager Rick Spielman says he spent several of the Vikings' picks on players with unique physical gifts that haven't been able to immediately earn playing time.
The unstoppable Derrick Henry and the Titans are home underdogs to the Chiefs less than week after their victory over the Bills.

Mark Craig's Week 7 NFL picks

Seeing upsets in five of the 13 games this week, including Tennessee beating Kansas City.
The Packers have started fourth-round draft pick Royce Newman at every game at right guard this season.

Comparing the 2021 draft classes of the NFC North teams

The Vikings draft picks have played only 126 snaps on offense or defense this season — far fewer than the other three teams' picks.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) warms up prior to an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Chicago.

NFC North double-check: Don't be like fan who flipped Rodgers the double-bird

On The NFL: When facing Green Bay's division rivals, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has put up an incredible array of statistics that the Packers aren't shy about sharing.
Anthony Averett and the Ravens shut down Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert on Sunday.

NFL's best and worst after six weeks — and a surprising note about the Vikings

The Cardinals and Ravens are rolling, but the Lions and Texans aren't even worth trolling. Here's Mark Craig's weekly look around the league.
Vikings fullback C.J. Ham’s 30-yard run in the third quarter was a career-long and gained an important first down.

Five extra points: Cousins' milestone, Ham's big run, head-scratching calls

Kirk Cousins is now tied for fourth place in wins among Vikings QBs, thanks to big plays from C.J. Ham, the defensive line and help from the Panthers.
Vikings receiver K.J. Osborn celebrated after catching the game-winning a 27-yard touchdown reception in overtime.

Osborn thriving in unheralded role as Vikings' No. 3 receiver

K.J. Osborn is the unfamiliar receiver who's making a name for himself in the shadows of superstar teammates. 'Leave me open,' he dared the Panthers on Sunday.
Last-minute heroics by kickers like the Vikings’ Greg Joseph have been common in the NFL this season.

Cousins, Vikings helping NFL take its late-game drama to historic levels

On the NFL: Through 80 games, there have been a record 19 contests with a winning score coming in the final minute of regulation or overtime.
Vikings offensive lineman Oli Udoh

Udoh heads home to write next chapter in Nigerian family's story

Vikings right guard Oli Udoh, who grew up in Fayetteville, N.C., will make his sixth NFL start Sunday against the Panthers with more 50 friends and family in attendance.
Will Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys stay on a roll against the Patriots?

Mark Craig's Week 6 NFL picks against the spread

Our NFL insider is suspicious of home-field advantage, but has a few road favorites you should avoid.
Vikings super fan Syd Davy greeted a Detroit Lions fan in the stands on Sunday.

As Vikings showed us again, winning ugly in the NFL is still a thing

On the NFL: Vikings fans annoyed by Sunday's game should ask any Lions fan over the past 60 years if winning ugly beats losing ugly.
Micah Hyde returned an interception for a touchdown in Buffalo’s win over Kansas City.

Top teams, best performances, predictions and trends: The NFL after Week 5

NFL Insider Mark Craig looks back at Week 5 and looks ahead to Week 6.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) celebrated after throwing a touchdown to Alexander Mattison in the second quarter.

Mattison's game among his best for Vikings — then it was among worst

Alexander Mattison spent roughly 4 ½ hours in one of the best, worst, happy, sad, up, down and then up again stress-testing days you'll ever see an NFL player experience.
Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks’ interception was part of a rough day for Detroit quarterback Jared Goff.

Five extra points: Play calls, penalties and run defense hamper Vikings

A conservative game plan, some ill-timed penalties and more porous run defending were problems for the Vikings, but Jared Goff had a worse day for the Lions.
Arizona tight end Maxx Williams had a career-best game against the Vikings in Week 2 with seven catches for 94 yards.

Ex-Gophers tight end Williams having breakout season for 4-0 Cardinals

On the NFL: Waconia, Minn., native Maxx Williams has 15 catches for 179 yards — 113 after the catch — and a touchdown, putting him on a pace to shatter career highs.
Kyler Murray and the Cardinals are the NFL’s only remaining unbeaten team. Will they stay that way vs. the 49ers?

Mark Craig's Week 5 NFL picks against the spread

Mistakes were made in Week 4. (Picking the Lions? Never again.) How will our NFL Insider get back on track?
Vikings cornerback Mackensie Alexander has a weekly routine, involving several trips to the tub, to try to stay healthy.

Keeping cornerbacks healthy and sharp remains an issue for the Vikings

The team's depth in the secondary will be tested again with Cameron Dantzler and Harrison Hand on the COVID-19 list.
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray evades the tackle attempt from Los Angeles Rams linebacker Obo Okoronkwo on Sunday.

Top teams, best performances, predictions and trends: The NFL after Week 4

A look back at the best and worst of Week 4 in the NFL, and what to expect this weekend. Also a look at the current front-runner for league MVP.
Under defensive coordinator (and former Vikings coach) Leslie Frazier, the Bills have posted two shutouts in their first four games — something done

Shutouts highlight Frazier's chance at second head coaching job

On the NFL: Former Vikings leader Leslie Frazier has the Buffalo Bills defense the talk of the league with two shutouts through four weeks.
Kirk Cousins was pressured into an incomplete pass late in the fourth quarter when the Vikings were trying for a game-tying score.

Browns defense executed plan that smothered Cousins from all sides

On the NFL: The Vikings' first drive went as smooth as could be. After that, Cleveland defensive coordinator Joe Woods dialed up all the right calls to harass Kirk Cousins.
Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. pulled down a first-down catch over Vikings middle linebacker Eric Kendricks, who was called for a crucial hold

Five extra points: Stefanski, Browns staff beat Zimmer at his own game

A run call on third-and-20 to set up a score and a few other things that happened at U.S. Bank Stadium gave Cleveland's victory a decidedly Vikings look.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer with then-offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski in 2019. Zimmer and Stefanski will be on opposite sidelines on Sunday.

Look at him now: How Zimmer and the Vikings shaped Stefanski

One of Mike Zimmer's six offensive coordinators over the years, Kevin Stefanski absorbed many lessons from his 14 seasons in Minnesota on his way to becoming NFL Coach of the Year with the Browns.
Vikings quarterback Case Keenum takes in the scene after the Minneapolis Miracle at U.S. Bank Stadium in January 2018.

Miracle man Keenum votes for U.S. Bank Stadium as the NFL's loudest venue

Case Keenum, the quarterback at the helm of the Minneapolis Miracle, is among several former Vikings returning to town Sunday with the Browns.
Tom Brady will share a field with the Patriots again on Sunday.

Mark Craig's Week 4 NFL picks against the spread

Tom Brady plays the Patriots, Andy Reid plays the Eagles and Kevin Stefanski plays the Vikings in a reunion-heavy weekend.
Mike Zimmer and Andy Reid

Zimmer, Reid energized by the NFL life, even when it wears them out

On The NFL: At an age where most coaches could be thinking about Social Security benefits, they're instead preparing for the next opponent. Coaching is what makes them feel alive, even if it could be killing them.
Justin Tucker kicked a 66-yard

Top teams, best performances, predictions: The NFL after Week 3

The two best teams in the NFL are both out west; The two worst have rookie quarterbacks. And how do the Vikings rank compared to the rest of the league?
Russell Wilson finished with seven yards rushing on three carries.

Five extra points: Wilson starting to show his age outside the pocket

For the Vikings? Kirk Cousins was excellent on third downs, and they committed just four penalties for 40 yards.
Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen celebrated a third-quarter sack of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson that swung Sunday’s game back in the Vi

Griffen puts Vikings on his back with critical sack against Seahawks

On the NFL: Everson Griffen wrapped up Russell Wilson for a 9-yard loss in the third quarter, helping turn the tide and preserve the Vikings' precarious lead.
Denver Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater

Teddy Bridgewater bargain paying off for new Broncos GM George Paton

Denver is one of seven undefeated teams in the NFL and has the Jets at home on Sunday.
Dalvin Cook

Vikings' Cook questionable; Barr still out; Griffen will play

The availability of a trio of stars will play a key role as 0-2 Vikings play the 1-1 Seahawks on Sunday for the 2021 home opener at U.S. Bank Stadium
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer during Sunday’s loss in Arizona.

Despite Zimmer's words, Vikings are 0-2, not '2 plays away from being 2-0'

On The NFL: Vikings coach Mike Zimmer knows there is no coulda, woulda, shoulda column in the standings. He's simply trying to encourage a winless team and a sucker-punched fan base.
This week’s NFL slate feature one game between 2-0 teams: Aaron Donald (above) and the Rams vs. Tom Brady and the Bucs.

Mark Craig's Week 3 NFL picks against the spread

Our NFL Insider went 13-3 straight up and 10-6 against the spread in Week 2. With that confidence, his Upset Special this week involves ... the Vikings.
Jared Allen, Matt Birk and Kevin Williams are among the 122 players on the initial list to be considered for induction in the 2022 class of the Pro Fo

Allen, Birk and Kevin Williams among Hall of Fame's first list for Class of 2022

There are five other candidates with ties to the Vikings on the list, which will be trimmed several times before the final selections are made.